The big news this week was the analysis of the coalition Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review. Ploughing through the papers the following day there was so much to take in. But there was one revelation within the annoucement’s which struck me more than anything else, and that was the cut by £50 for new recipients of the winter fuel allowance.
The move came despite a pre-election promise from the Prime Minister to safeguard benefits for the elderly, including winter fuel payments. In addition the Government is making plans to increase the state pension age to 66, it was revealed.
Last winter, any household with someone aged 60 or more received a £250 winter fuel payment. For those over 80, it rose to £400.
Those rates were increased by Gordon Brown in 2008, by £50 and £100 respectively. You can read a full analysis of the winter fuel payment cuts in The Telegraph here.
Also last week, the Government was left embarrassed following a gaffe by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, when he inadvertently revealed that 490,000 public sector jobs would be lost by 2014 as a result of spending cuts.
The revelations were made after Alexander left a briefing note on display which was then photographed and snapped by the crowd of photographers.
And the cuts also hit the BBC which was forced to accept a 16% budget cut, with the licence fee frozen for six years…and the corporation taking on the responsibility for the World Service which had been funded by the Foreign Office previously.
Patrick Wintour wrote in last week’s Guardian that the negotiations left the BBC stunned, with insiders claiming that a license fee settlement that would normally take years to thrash out had been imposed in three days. The extra financial burdens are equivalent to the cost of running the BBC’s five national radio stations. You can read the full story on cuts here in the Guardian.
I was also pleased to read earlier in the week how three feature length films are to be made over the next six months in Bristol.
Bristol is a growing hub for film, with both the makers of Wallace and Gromit and the graffiti artist, Banksy, originating from there.
The films will be made with a mixture of public and private funding. The projects are aimed at inspiring young talent and at stamping Bristol firmly on the map as a center for film making in the UK.
Perhaps the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will follow the success of these films, and consider his decision to axe the popular and much needed UK Film Council, an organisation which works with young and emerging talent in this country to both inspire and support them in their projects.
Hunt’s short sighted and quick action to abolish it have undoubtedly set back the UK film industry but projects like this will help to keep the UK film industry on the map. Read about the Bristol films in The Guardian here.